Your Brain on Reading (Why Your Brain Needs You to Read Every Day):

Reading puts your brain to work.

Reading is to the mind what exercise is to your body.

It gives us freedom to roam the expanse of space, time, history, and offer a deeper view of ideas, concepts, emotions, and body of knowledge.

Roberto Bolaño says, “Reading is like thinking, like praying, like talking to a friend, like expressing your ideas, like listening to other people’s ideas, like listening to music, like looking at the view, like taking a walk on the beach.”

Your brain on books is active — growing, changing and making new connections and different patterns, depending on the type of material you’re reading.

(Via The Startup)

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GDPR: Don’t forget to bring a towel!:

May 25 is Towel Day, when fans of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy jokingly adorn a towel and praise the household item as if it prepares the owner for any sticky situation. Author Douglas Adams was a master of these tongue-in-cheek references to our modern existence, helping the reader (and listener) feel as if they might one day walk across their livingroom and into a silly, star-spanning adventure.

As The Guide says, “A towel is just about the most massively useful thing any interstellar Hitchhiker can carry. Partly it has great practical value.” But the true power of a towel is its role as a symbol: “More importantly, a towel has immense psychological value… any man who can hitch the length and breadth of the Galaxy, rough it, slum it, struggle against terrible odds, win through and still knows where his towel is, is clearly a man to be reckoned with.”

Possession of a towel is a calming force, a reification of the mantra printed across the cover of The Guide in big letters: “DON’T PANIC”.

(Via Boing Boing)

Stupid GDPR, distracting me on Towel Day.

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Attacking Our Civic Faith:

Former Obama administration solicitor general Don Verrilli gave a commencement address this week. His topic was President Trump. He has it exactly right, and all those conservatives who’ve (as I characterized it at length several months ago) “sold their souls” should take heed. An excerpt of the address is below and this link is to the full text. As we look to Memorial Day and remember those who have died to defend America’s exceptional system of government, let us resolve to do better.

Let’s not mince words. Our civic faith is undergoing an extreme test. I am not talking about disagreements over policy. In our democratic system we will always debate and disagree about policy, and we should. That is how we learn and grow and prosper as a nation. Something much more important is at stake. We have a President who tries every day to undermine the public’s confidence in the rule of law – who sows doubt about the integrity of the women and men of the Department of Justice and the FBI (women and men whose integrity and commitment to public service I saw up close every day for the better part of eight years when I was in the government), a President who demands that his political adversaries be thrown in prison, who attacks the integrity of judges when they rule against him. We have racists and Nazis marching with torches in Charlottesville Virginia chanting “blood and soil” like they did in Germany in the 1930s, and a President who refuses to call them what they are. We have unprecedented attacks on the free press, criticism dismissed as “fake news” and critics threatened with financial ruin. And some version of this occurs virtually every day, to the point that it is now defines what is normal in our political discourse. And it’s not just the President. Our political leaders routinely forsake compromise, demonize opponents, and sell out the long term health of our constitutional system in order to gain maximum short-term partisan advantage. This is taking an enormous toll. More and more people believe that the system is rigged, that our institutions are corrupt, that our Constitution and laws are just words on a page – just tools to be manipulated in the service of selfish interests. This is a test of faith.

(Via Lawfare – Hard National Security Choices)

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This Super-Crispy Honey Butter Fried Chicken Is Killer With Waffles:

NewImageAnd if I’m in the right mood, I might even serve the fried chicken alongside a stack of waffles, to tame the tingling spice dust and mop up my sticky honey fingers. It just so happens that this recipe, when made alongside Stella’s buttermilk waffles, uses exactly one quart of buttermilk in total. That can’t be a coincidence, right?

(Via Serious Eats)

I love me some fried chicken and waffles. It was something I got into just before I left Detroit. I can see doing this as the menu for a day at the park.

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Intentional Twitter Usage:

Turning my notifications off mediated this somewhat, I am no longer poked to go back to Twitter by dings. I have never really viewed those notifications as important that need instant attention. The answer has been simply removing the app from my phone, I have drastically reduced my exposure to Twitter, and I really do feel better for it.

My Twitter usage is now restricted to when I want to ‘go and check’ Twitter on my computer. The downside is that I don’t reply to messages and mentions like I used to, and also my tweets will come in short bursts of quite a few in a short space of time. So I must apologise for the time line spam, however I will still continue to share things to Twitter using Linky, and posts to micro.blog will appear there also. I am not gone, just using Twitter far more intentionally and it has worked wonders.

(Via Greg Morris)

I did a version of Greg’s write-up a while ago. I was going to take the extra step of killing off my Twitter accounts but changed by mind, at least for now.

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Handkerchief Everyday Carry Thoughts:

My grandfather, as I am sure many grandfathers do, always seemed to carry a handkerchief. Typically, I would see him pull it out to wipe his nose, or actually blow it (shudder). Always seemed weird to me, and I never understood it.

And then I happened to put one in my briefcase and it came in handy — a fair amount. And my youngest daughter will tell me “this is handy, you should always keep these for me.” So for the past ten months I’ve been carrying a handkerchief with me whenever I leave the house, wondering what good it could be. And these are also very popular in the everyday carry (EDC) community, so I wanted to figure out what the draw was. Here goes…

(Via The Brooks Review Member Feed)

I don’t recall either of my grandfathers using handkerchiefs, but I am sure that they carried them. I don’t know how they used them. My Dad does, and he could maybe benefit from allergy medication.

I’ve carried a handkerchief in my front left trouser pocket for a long time. I also carry a larger bandanna in my suit coat or blazer front right pocket. The idea is that, if I need to sneeze or something more concerning is coming, whatever hand is most free can grab something useful to absorb what’s to come. If I’m not wearing a jacket or blazer, then I tuck the bandana in my bag where I can quickly access it.

The “gross” uses of the handkerchief, blowing the nose and whatnot, are part of the equation and utility. In Tokyo, we have the advantage of street barkers handing out tissue packets.

The bandanna, as second fiddle to the handkerchief, is maybe more useful. It’s a:

  • Hand dryer
  • Neck shade (under a ball cap)
  • Glasses cleaner
  • Spot to sit on
  • And so on …
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Your summer reading list, provided by Bill Gates:

Bill Gates Summer Books 2019

Americans are gearing up for summer vacation, which for Microsoft cofounder and famous bookworm Bill Gates means loading up the suitcase with books. The philanthropist and ardent reader has issued his annual summer reading list. This year his recommendations for beach reads touch on some of Gates’ favorite themes. They include two popular history books, a meditative novel on mortality, and a techno-utopian book about logic.

Here’s this year’s list, along with annotations from Gates’s site:

Leonardo da Vinci, by Walter Isaacson (2017)

In this book from last year about the Renaissance artist and inventor, the bestselling biographer of Steve Jobs and Albert Einstein delved deeply into da Vinci’s contributions beyond art, highlighting the breadth of his scientific, technological, and creative output. Writes Gates:

More than any other Leonardo book I’ve read, this one helps you see him as a complete human being and understand just how special he was. He came close to understanding almost all of what was known on the planet at the time. That’s partly because scientific knowledge was relatively limited back then, partly because he had a high IQ, but mostly because he was insatiably curious about pretty much every area of natural science and the human experience.

Everything Happens for a Reason and Other Lies I’ve Loved, by Kate Bowler (2018)

A scholar of Christianity recounts in this memoir her philosophical questions and emotional reactions after being unexpectedly diagnosed with stage IV colon cancer. Says Gates:

The central questions in this book really resonated with me. On one hand, it’s nihilistic to think that every outcome is simply random. I have to believe that the world is better when we act morally, and that people who do good things deserve a somewhat better fate on average than those who don’t. But if you take it to extremes, that cause-and-effect view can be hurtful.

Lincoln in the Bardo, by George Saunders (2018)

Saunders, a long-time short story writer, received widespread acclaim for his first novel. The book, told from multiple points of view, imagines the ghosts that haunt the crypt of Willie Lincoln, Abraham Lincoln’s son, who died at age 11 in real life. Writes Gates:

Losing a child is unbearable for any parent, but Lincoln is also burdened by timing. Willie died less than a year after the Civil War started. The president has a new understanding of the grief he’s creating in other families by sending their sons off to die in battle. He must make a choice. Should the war go on?

Origin Story: A Big History of Everything, by David Christian (2018)

This new book, which will come out May 22, is by the creator of Big History, a free, online social studies course that he co-founded with Gates. The book traces history in wide, sweeping movements, starting with the Big Bang. Writes Gates:

The book ends with a chapter on where humanity—and the universe—is headed. David is more pessimistic about the future than I am. He gets a little stuck on the current economic and political malaise happening in the West, and I wish he talked more about the role innovation will play in preventing the worst effects of climate change.

Factfulness, by Hans Rosling, with Ola Rosling and Anna Rosling Rönnlund (2018)

Rosling, the popular academic known for his quirky stats talks, died last year. Gates reviewed his book, cowritten by his son and daughter-in-law, which lays out ten instincts that lead us to distorted views about global trends based on bias instead of fact. In April Gates called it “one of the most educational books I’ve ever read.” Gates says:

[Rosling] refuses to judge anyone for their misconceptions. Most writers would beat people up for their ignorance, but he doesn’t. Hans even resists going after the media. Instead, he tells you about the history of his own ignorance. He explains that these instincts make us human, and that overcoming them isn’t easy. That’s classic Hans. He was always kind, often patient, and never judgmental.


Read next: Your summer 2017 reading list, provided by Bill Gates

Read next: Bill Gates has just read his “favorite book of all time”

(Via Quartz » Technology)

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My Tokyo shop, Barber Shop Takeda, gives me a great cut and shave.

I need my Japanese barber, like I needed my Detroit barber, Chattanooga barber, Canadian barber, and Belgian barber. Why? Obviously they tend to me when I’m there and I value my time there.

Most important, they help me look and feel good.

Tokyo Daddy Issues: Why I Need My Japanese Barber (Even Though I Don’t):

In this column I usually talk about my young daughter Hana and myself, with a slight emphasis on Hana. Today I will focus on me. I still believe this episode to be on topic, however, since I am the titular daddy. Also, I completely blame my daughter for the significant change in my lifestyle that I am going to talk about.

I have said before that I often feel like an honorary Japanese mom, because I spend so much time among them when I entertain Hana in public. Like every other mom, Japanese or not, once in a while I long for something that is just for myself.

I have finally found something. After having been my own hairdresser for over 20 years, I am now back in professional care. I am the last person on earth who needs a hairdresser, but that’s beside the point. Here is a fittingly short history of my hair: In my twenties I let it grow wild and free – in my face and on my head – until I could no longer deny the fact that I am balding (still talking about my twenties). People had been pointing it out for a while, but I took them for jesters. Balding was simply not something that would happen to me. At least not before the old age of, say, 40. It was something that was only supposed to happen to other people, like serious illnesses or hot dates.

So I did what every balding man of my generation and subsequent generations has done – the contemporary equivalent of the old comb over: I shaved off everything and pretended it was an intentional “cool bald look.” I got the black rim glasses and black outfits to go with it, and I almost fooled myself.

“The point is that for one hour I get to sit or lie in different positions, almost all of them comfortable, and somebody is taking care of me instead of the other way around”

So I don’t really need a hairdresser to get rid of my hair, but I enjoy the extra service I am getting at a Japanese barber shop. I always chose the full package: cut, shave, shampoo, massage, and removal of every tiny hair in the general vicinity of my face that I never knew was growing there. It takes about an hour versus under five minutes at home, but as I said: that is beside the point. The point is that for one hour I get to sit or lie in different positions, almost all of them comfortable, and somebody is taking care of me instead of the other way around.

Some aspects of that package are more rewarding than others. The massage is too weak, it feels more like someone is shyly but persistently tapping my shoulder. I need a massage to hurt, badly. I actually want to feel worse afterwards. Yet I can’t bring myself to ask my barber to just skip it; I don’t want to hurt his feelings.

I would never want to skip shampoo, although I admit it’s the aspect that makes the least sense in my case. I could swear my barber was actually laughing behind my back the first time he shampooed me, after reconfirming several times that I was serious. There really isn’t much left to shampoo. It is more like rubbing skin with soap. But it is a much more satisfying massage than the actual massage.

I knew I could trust my barber when I saw his manga collection in the waiting area. Not that I’m much of an expert. When my Japanese wife and I were in our hot dating phase, she made me swear that I am not “one of those manga freaks.” Of course I denied my allegiance to the brotherhood of manga freaks before the rooster crowed. I wasn’t even lying, not completely. I wasn’t a total freak, yet I was getting freakier and freakier the more time I spent in Japan. I still don’t read a lot of manga. However, I do appreciate the masterworks, like Naoki Urasawa’s 20th Century Boys (skip the movies, read the comics) or Monster. So when I saw volumes of these very series on my hairdresser’s shelves, as well as some others that I knew and cherished, I immediately lost my fear of the new situation. I knew I was among friends.

Going to the barber is also what I do instead of language class these days. I studied Japanese long before I actually moved here, but arrogantly and foolishly I stopped when I got married to a Japanese national. I assumed that I would simply absorb the language through daily life. Japanese is the language of love, isn’t that what they say?

No, apparently German is the language of love, as my wife picked it up in no time. My Japanese actually deteriorated. Until I decided to have my hair cut professionally.

I am no friend of idle chitchat, but I do honor the tradition of at least a little bit of small talk at the hair salon. That means I can only go when obvious topics are in the air, so I can anticipate, if not control the conversation. Unusual weather conditions are helpful, as are national holidays. Fortunately there are a lot of both in Japan, so what remains of my hair never has to grow too long between visits.

And when I come home, Hana will point at me and exclaim: “I have nice hair! You don’t have nice hair!”

And that is exactly how I like it.

Let’s block ads!(Why?)

(Via Tokyo Weekender)

My barber experience is as much the utility as it is something spa-like. I found there are many barbers in Tokyo who do shaves but few who can do a western haircut.

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The Synonym Finder:

This is the best thesaurus there is. It supplies more synonyms, analogs, parallels, equivalents and comparable words in English than any other source, online or off. No other thesaurus comes near to it for completeness or breadth. Compiled in dictionary form, like the one in your word processors, there’s no index or cross-referencing. Just look up a word, any word, and it proceeds to overwhelm you with alternative choices (a total of 1.5 million synonyms are presented in 1,361 pages), including short phrases and only mildly related words. Rather than being a problem of imprecision, the Finder’s broad inclusiveness prods your imagination and prompts your recall.

(Via Cool Tools)

My good friend Tracy, the @InfoSecSherpa, is helping me acquire the best English language resources. I do a lot of editing here and often need to explain why English is the way it is.

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I love this story and will try to legally watch this documentary from Japan …

Watch The Hedy Lamarr Story, a New Documentary on the 1940s Film Star & Inventor of Wi-Fi Technology (Streaming Free for a Limited Time):

We told you last year about Hedy Lamarr, the 1940s film star who also helped invent the technology behind wi-fi and bluetooth during World War II. Now, she’s the subject of a new documentary from PBS’s American Masters series. Directed by Alexandra Dean, and streaming free online for a limited time, BombshellThe Hedy Lamarr Story, “explores how Lamarr’s true legacy is that of a technological trailblazer” and features, among other things, “four never-before-heard audio tapes of Lamarr speaking on the record about her incredible life, finally giving her the chance to tell her own story.” The winner of several film festival awards, The Hedy Lamarr Story premiered across the US on May 18th. Stream it online above or also here.

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Related Content:

How 1940s Film Star Hedy Lamarr Helped Invent the Technology Behind Wi-Fi & Bluetooth During WWII

Watch The Strange Woman, the 1946 Noir Film Starring Hedy Lamarr

Gustav Machatý’s Erotikon (1929) & Ekstase (1933): Cinema’s Earliest Explorations of Women’s Sensuality

(Via Open Culture)

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